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Cefn Cemetery

Cefn Coed y Cymmer, Merthyr Tydfil


Cefn-Ffrwd is the largest Cemetery in the Borough with approximately 40 acres. In the nineteenth century burial was a huge problem here. In a hundred years Merthyr Tydfil grew from a Parish of just over 500 persons to the only large town in Wales with a population of over 50, 000 in 1850. During the 1849 cholera outbreak there were over 1,000 deaths in one month alone. Infant mortality was high and other diseases such as smallpox and TB were rife. Not all the chapels and churches had their own burial ground and the responsibility for burial lay with the Parish Authorities. In 1850 there were three Merthyr Tydfil Parish Burial Grounds, the Graveyard around St. Tydfil’ s Church, the Cemetery in Twynyrodyn and the new so called ‘cholera’ Cemetery in Thomastown. Dowlais had two Parish cemeteries, St John’s Church and a small cholera cemetery near the Works. This was a time when cremation was unheard of, and these soon became inadequate. The Board of Health, founded in 1850, took advantage of a new Act of 1852, which empowered them to set up Cemeteries and leased land in Breconshire to set up a new Cemetery. The Cemetery was managed by the Burial Board. The first burial took place on the 16th April 1859. The Ffrwd portion of the Cemetery was added in 1905, the first burial being on November 20th, 1905. Average burials in the nineteenth century were around 400 annually. In 1878 the son of one of the gravediggers set fire to the ‘dead-house’ of the Cefn Cemetery and a report of the 21st of December 1878 described the ‘unseemly behaviour’ of children frequently climbing about the monuments of the Cemetery.  In 1902 when the road to Cardiff was widened a large section of the St Tydfil Graveyard was removed and the ‘remains’ were moved to Cefn Coed Cemetery. Those reburied included Charles Wood, who erected the first furnaces at Cyfarthfa.

Easter was a traditional time for ‘flowering the graves’ and a report in the Merthyr Express of the 26th March 1916 records that:-  ‘at Cefn Cemetery on Friday and Saturday, relatives of the dead attended from long distances to clean stones and plant flowers’. 

Cefn Coed became a Municipal Cemetery for Merthyr Tydfil in 1905. Welsh Baptists were buried in unconsecrated ground and Roman Catholics in consecrated ground. There is a separate large Jewish Cemetery at Cefn Coed and there is an index to all the Jewish burials in Merthyr Tydfil Library.

There are many famous people buried in Cefn Coed Cemetery including:-

Enoch Morrell, first Mayor of Merthyr Tydfil and the Welsh Miners Leader who had to negotiate the return to work after the General Strike. Redmond Coleman, the boxing champion of Wales at the beginning of the twentieth century. Adrian Stephens, inventor of the steam whistle.

Carolyn Jacob

Clearing the ground, in the 1890s

Cefn Cemetary Buildings. c 1900.

CefnCoed_CefnCemeteryBuildings.JPG (114234 bytes)

Cefn Coed Cemetary in the early 1900s

Grave of the inventor of the Steam Whistle, Adrian Stephens.

Building the Bridge Between the Old and New Cefn Cemeteries

(Photograph courtesy of the John Owen Collection)



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